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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories Review

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Developer: Rockstar Leeds Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: October 30, 2006 Also On: None

I am going to be upfront from the start: I am not a Grand Theft Auto fan. I remember playing the game for the first time on the original PlayStation at a friend’s house (Grand Theft Auto 2, actually). Nothing like it was ever seen before. An open-city environment where you could deviate from the missions, choose your missions, take sides in the gang wars, run from the cops, kill the cops, hide from the cops, run over pedestrians, carjack vehicles and hijack a tank. It truly was a revolution in game design. Rockstar took it to the next logical step on the PlayStation 2, bringing the series to full 3D. The violence was no longer from what could conceivably be a satellite’s lens and was no portrayed in a way that people could relate to in real-life.

I am not a fan of the ultra-violent video games that have been a segment of the video game industry for many decades. Grand Theft Auto 3 seemed to take things to the next level, and it put the industry under a possibly well-deserved microscope. Afterall, would you want your 7 year-old playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas? Not only are the sexual obscenities, violent acts and stereotypes maximized in this series, they have spawned numerous spin-offs and endless sequels. In order to write a fair review, I had to take all of this into account, put it in my back head and play Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories with an open mind.

Just as a “fyi”, I would like to point out that Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories for the PlayStation Portable, reviewed on this site by Dave Linger, received an 8.8 out of 10. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is a follow-up on Vice City for the PlayStation 2, just as Liberty City Stories was a follow-up on GTA 3 for the PlayStation 2 (it’s probably safe to assume a San Andreas Stories is in the works). Using the power of PlayStation Portable, Rockstar allows gamers to roam around an open-city environment without load times and minimal downgrades to graphics quality.

You play as Vic Vance, a black soldier stationed in Vice City Stories during the 1980s. Commanding Officer Martinez is a shady character who asks you to do a few “favors” for him in exchange for money that you claim is going to your brother’s medical expenses. As you roll up to the military base with a hooker, a superior officer informs you that they found hidden weed under your bed in the barracks. Vic is discharged from the military and forced to join the crime life to make money for his family.

Once you are kicked out of the military, you have to find a job doing something. You take missions, just as you would in any other Grand Theft Auto games, by going to the markers indicated on your map. This allows you to choose which missions you would like to play and which ones you may want to avoid for a while. The gang violence returns, as you will start the game going after a Latino gang, fighting alongside the rednecks. Eventually you will be able to capture enemy territory, as well as purchase your own properties.

As in most Grand Theft Auto games, fighting can be a problem. Usually, the auto-targeting system (pressing the right trigger) selects the person directly in front of you, but it’s inconsistent. The problem with this is that you don’t always want the person in front of you (primarily you want people that are threats in a game like this), there is no way to toggle between targets and the person nearest will be ignored for the person directly ahead (meaning someone might be coming at you from behind with a baseball bat and you won’t have time to turn around and shoot him). You fire your weapon with circle, punch with circle, kick with x and grab with triangle.

The missions in Vice City Stories are standard Grand Theft Auto fare. You have your usually driving missions where you deliver “gifts”, drive as your passengers shoot down an enemy vehicle and of course the good ol carjacking. You will also have to kill plenty of gang members, protect plenty of people, run from plenty of cops, blow up plenty of vehicles and ride in plenty of sweet rides. They even throw in a dirt bike race for your hillbilly enjoyment (editor’s note: if you are reading this and you do not wear overalls, drive a pickup truck and support George Bush, yet you ride dirt bikes, I apologize for calling you a hillbilly, you are not one).

The soundtrack that Grand Theft Auto games are so well known for is included in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, though to a lesser degree than in the console versions. The music on the radio is diverse, just like the cultures of Miami, and are filled with tunes from the 1980s. There are plenty of classic rock songs, some hip-hop, a little talk and others. The commercials and DJ’s were always the funniest parts, I thought. The selection isn’t very deep though. As for voice-acting, everything is done well, but the sound quality, especially in mission cut-scenes are pretty low quality.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is a sandbox on a portable device. Everything you loved (and hated) about the console version is translated over to the PlayStation Portable. It is definitely a technical achievement, but as far as creativity goes, this is the same old stuff we’ve been through for years now. The missions are entertaining, the open environments impress and the storyline is interesting. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories will keep you active playing a PSP for quite some time.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 9.5
Final: 8.7
Written by Kyle Review Guide